I cannot place myself in the context of leaving one rigidly contained and chaotic universe of my home of origin and entering into the bigger wide world in one falling swoop without also considering the generation that I am a part of – The Baby Boomers.
This statement contained within this article caught my attention:
“Research on memory loss has indicated that the Baby Boom generation has been confronted with increasing loss of memory due to the agitated life they lead, which requires that attention is put on many different things at a time. Since older generations were not faced with this rapid life style, and newer generation have lived with this society all their lives, it is said that the Baby Boom generation was the most damaged one in terms of memory loss due to age. .”
Having just today written my own opinion on memory retrieval, *THE DANGERS OF MEMORY RETRIEVAL, probably left me with a sensitivity about “…increasing loss of memory due to the agitated life they lead, which requires that attention is put on many different things at a time.” This is especially true because I was preparing to copy into my computer the writing I did July 2008 about my boot camp to motherhood experiences after I left home October 3, 1969.
My chaotic childhood certainly placed me in an environment where I had to place my attention on “many different things at a time.” My brain solved the problem of how to survive my extreme abuse from birth by building a super structure of dissociation into itself. That means that nothing about how my memory operates is the same as it would have been if I had been in a safe and secure environment from birth to age 2 while my brain built itself in the first place. Perhaps this ties into the larger picture for me as I left home to find myself surrounded by a young generation of people who were lose in a world they did not seem to be able to understand — or to understand their place in.
I will always be curious to know how many of my generation actually sobbed their way through watching the 1994 movie, “Forrest Gump.” I sat in the theatre and literally could not stop my crying. I know now that one of my ‘life veins of pain’ had been severed both when I was born into this world the first time, and again when I was born into it the second time when I left home so abruptly that I knew of no connection whatsoever to my previous lifetime.
The tears that streamed down my face without ending let me know now how effectively this movie connected my two birthing experiences together. It somehow carried the bitter sweetness of pain and sadness without end throughout itself in such a way that it performed a kind of surgery upon my soul.
Never before or since have I ever felt so understood. Never had I experienced my own experience mirrored back to me like that movie did. When that level of sorrow is what holds a lifetime together, there will never be a chance of escaping it except through the doorway of one’s own death. Somehow that movie connected together the two main pieces of my lifetime, and what flowed from one into the other was pain — and at that moment I knew this truth.
I see it more clearly now. Both my own life and that movie are about being the innocent living embodiment of trauma. My life, the life of Forrest Gump and the woman he loved were a consequence both of a birth-right and a birth-wrong. Our missions were in parallel, to endure what life gave us. Our challenge was to do so with purity. That I had accomplished my mission and met my challenge was reflected in the pure tears I cried for the duration of that movie.
Just as I will not likely know about others who cried through ‘Forrest Gump’, I am also not likely to know about others who found themselves in military boot camp and felt themselves to have died and gone to heaven. I became a part of a group of 64 women who all followed the same rules. I was not singled out for abuse or maltreatment. For the first time in my life the world around me seemed to make sense and I flourished.
I made friends. I fit in and blended. I shared a common experience and common goals. I could apply myself and win praise. I was not punished in spite of my best efforts at everything I did, unlike what had always happened to me before this. But I was like a cross between a fragile china doll let out of her glass box container for the first time, and a trained monkey. I had no idea what was really going on. I didn’t need to know. I just did what I was told to do the same as all the other women did. We got along. I got by, and eventually, after 8 weeks, boot camp ended.
What I most desperately needed was not given to me. I needed the same thing I had needed from the time of my birth. I needed someone to look into my eyes and see how terribly, terribly wounded and troubled I was. I needed someone to recognize that something was terribly wrong and that I needed help. I needed someone to notice, to care, and to help me. That is never the military’s job.
I was given the appropriate clothing that fit the outer Linda, including hats, shoes and gloves, handed papers and sent on my way.
What does freedom mean to a child who finally makes it out into the world, freed from the oppression of constant trauma and abuse, not knowing either who they are as a person or what the world is outside of their home? What did that mean to me, a child leaving home at the very tail end of the 60s who was swept into a current of change that was so much bigger than I was? I not only had no experience in being on my own, I also had no experience in being a person at all.
Everything was new and different. The person I was as I experienced these experiences was new and different, as well. When I say I knew nothing, I mean it. I had no frame of reference. I had no points of comparison. I had no way to orient myself or to organize myself within these experiences. I had no touchstone, either within or without. I was in the Navy all right, but I was a lost ship at sea — without a ship.
I did not know that I was free. Researchers might call it stimulus and response. I was still held in the clutches of the hand of destiny. I still did not know such a thing as choice even existed. My life as it unfolded before me only required that I walk straight on through it as if both the play and the script with me in it had already been written long before I arrived on the scene.
I suffered from some strange form of agreeableness, as if nothing else mattered. Whatever circumstances seemed to demand and require of me is exactly what I did. I had wanted to go to journalism school, and that thought had filled my thinking from the moment my parents had told me I was going away into the Navy. The testing that we went through in boot camp, however, informed the military that I was the smartest of the 64 women, so they decided I should go to data processing school at the Naval Training Center in San Diego and study computers. I didn’t even know what a computer was.
I settled into my barrack’s room as if I were a puppet doll on strings. I arranged my few belongings perfectly, bought a teal, blue and aqua woven cloth for the top of my dresser, bought a clear glass fish bowl and a gold fish to put on the dresser. I sat on the edge of my bed and watched as the morning sun shone through the water, the bowl, and made the fish glow.
But I didn’t even do these simple things with an awareness based on self consciousness. I acted automatically most of the time, though I clearly made a choice the day I discovered there was another woman in the barracks who sewed her own clothes. I sought her out. I had her teach me. I bought my patterns and my fabric and I created my off duty wardrobe. But even these actions were not particularly connected to anything else.
I went to the mess hall to eat. Automatic pilot. I came back to the barracks at noon hour, changed into my bikini and laid in the sun tanning until it was time to change back into my uniform and go back to class. Automatic pilot. I was so numb and so far removed from my experience that I could have been watching a movie with my own body in it. But I did not know this. I had no idea.
I had a midwestern girl named Binky for a roommate. She wore thick glasses and died her hair yellow. She teased it to a bump at the top of her head, and made a perfect curl that surrounded her head just above her collar like an incomplete halo. She was very smart, read a lot, and talked very little.
Destiny evidently demanded that an abrupt change occur in my new life before it had even gotten started. I entered a classroom full of mature men and women who were calm and dedicated to their studies. They had quiet voices. They studied in the evenings and went to sleep early. They were kind to me, and tutored me the best that they could, but after only four weeks of class I was put back again to start all over with the next incoming class.
If only destiny had left me alone. If only I had known it was possible to break destiny’s grip. If only I had possessed a mind for mathematics, and the details of boards, wires and circuits. But I didn’t, no matter how hard I studied, so destiny played its game with me and made sure I had to encounter a classroom full of — well — losers. I imagine there were some regular people in that class, but being just 18 years young and so naive, I became immediately enamored with the suave, handsome, tanned playboys who ruled the attention of the class.
And of course, I fell in love. I was sucked into a bad play with a bad script and with the inevitable bad ending. But I knew no will of my own and I sure did not know wisdom. These boys played a lot. Their whole life seemed to be about having fun. Parties, parties in motel rooms on weekends, parties on the beach until dawn, parties with alcohol, parties with drugs, and always parties with women.
Because I was a woman I fit right in. What could have been my first introduction to freedom at that time in my life turned into a free-for-all. All players involved played their parts with abandon as if there were no rules and there was no tomorrow. Consequences? Who knew? Certainly not me.
These boys were extremely bright and they sailed through all of the coursework with ease, no matter how stoned or hung over they might have been. I, on the other hand, could still not understand a thing I was being taught. The boys graduated and flew away to their aircraft carriers. I failed and had to take a simple secretarial course that allowed me to ‘keep on keeping on’ as I landed next, stationed in Rhode Island. I was three months pregnant.